ETHIOPIA: Youth, Women Leagues Expected to Join EPRDF Leadership

Tuesday, August 31, 2010
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Structural change is expected within the ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front's (EPRDF) top leadership at its congress scheduled for next month. The front's newly emerging youth and women leagues are likely to join the party's top leadership for the first time, a knowledgeable source has indicated.

EPRDF's organizational congress, held every two years by representatives of the ruling front's four members, is scheduled to be held from September 15 to 17 in the Oromia regional state, Adama town.

Muktar Kedir, EPRDF headquarters' head, said a congress preparing committee was appointed by the party's executive a month ago. Muktar added that most of the committee's tasks have been completed to hold the scheduled congress that will be open for the press for the second time. The first congress ever to be accessible for the media in Ethiopian political history was in 2008.
Each of the four members of the EPRDF – the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO) and the Southern Ethiopia Peoples Democratic Movement (SEPDM) – will hold their party congresses before the front meeting. Those elected will participate in the Adama congress.

This year, for the first time, the newly established EPRDF women and youth leagues will also be represented at the congress, according to Muktar.

Established after the Hawassa congress, held in September 2008 in Southern's city Hawassa, the ruling youth league currently has 1,250,445 members while the women's league is believed to count 996,796 members. Altogether they represent one third of the 5.6 million EPRDF members.

Some of the leagues have a new style of setup since they were not established as a front of four but as one party. The EPRDF Addis Ababa league for example is directly accountable to the EPRDF as opposed to any of the four members.
ANDM politician Tefera Walwa, who is expected to retire this year as a senior cabinet Minister of Capacity Building, hoped such a setup would point the EPRDF into the direction of unification. The EPRDF has vowed to become one party for nearly two decades now.

“We can achieve better goals under the current setup for now, but the door isn't closed for unification,” Muktar, an OPDO party prominent, said last Tuesday.

PM Meles Zenawi, the front's chairman, recently explained that the youth and women leagues approach followed in Addis Ababa needed to be tested further before the EPRDF adopts the setup in its entire hierarchy.
The leagues now are sending their own representatives. According to party insiders, who asked not be named, they will not only send delegates but are expected to have members in the party's top leadership as well.

Currently EPRDF's four coalition parties have nine members in the executive committee each. In the EPRDF council, that counts 180 members, each front member has 45 representatives. “Now the leagues are represented in both entities. How many members they have in either of the entities I think will be addressed by the congress,” a senior EPRDF member said.

The EPRDF council will present the last two years performance report to the congress. The Growth and Transformation Plan, which will be discussed as part of the policy for the next two years, is expected to dominate the three days congress.
The party's audit and inspection commission will report on the status of the party's financial books.

On the final day, the party is expected to name a chairman and deputy chairman. PM Meles' chairmanship is secured but since Deputy PM Addissu Legesse of the ANDM did not run in the latest elections, there are growing expectations that the seat could go to another member, even another party.

Major reshuffling in both the federal and regional government's senior posts, which should also redraw the cabinet, is expected to follow shortly after the organizational congress that will be held a few days before the enactment of the House of Peoples' Representatives.

As for the nation's constitution, a party or a coalition of parties with 50+1 percent of the 547 federal parliament seats will form a government. EPRDF and its affiliates have 99.6 percent of the seats and will therefore form a new government in October. EPRDF first assumed power in 1991 by unseating the brutal military junta of the Derg regime by armed struggle.